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Is “Hugot” an inherently inferior form of aesthetics? On artist and netizens’ criticisms of Moira’s hit song “Paubaya”

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Emil Samaniego
Emil Samaniego is Chief Content Officer and one of the founders of Politixxx Today.

The Twitter world is once again abuzz when artist Khryss Arañas (@khryssaranas) posted several tweets critiquing Moira Dela Torre’s newest hit song “Paubaya,” whose newly released music video featuring Joshua Garcia and Julia Barreto still trends at #1 in Youtube Philippines with 15 million views as of this posting. Arañas described “Paubaya” as a “hugot song” with “paulit-ulit na tema” and “rhyme scheme.”

While noting that the song has good melody and arrangement, Arañas felt that the “arrangement” and the lyrical texts do not coincide aesthetically. He also bemoaned the song for its “generic songwriting” and appeal to the “hopeless romantic” among us.

As expected, the tweets gained tractions from netizens who both expressed agreement and disagreement to it.

Netizen Yen (@rizzyreeses) in support of Arañas posts said “Not hating on Moira but it’s actually true that most OPM song revolves around the theme of being “heartbroken.”

In an apparent jab towards Moira’s “Paubaya,” netizen K (@invitsandpieces) asked whether it was a “Lang Leav of songs?”

Another netizen Whiskey Bonbons (@sketchy_13i) agreed with the criticism hurled at Moira’s “Paubaya”. The netizen said that the “lyrics weren’t beautiful” and “if anything her writing style is quite mediocre.”

https://twitter.com/sketchy_13i/status/1362185614087520260?s=20

However, other netizens called out Arañas for his apparent “saltiness” over Moira’s “Paubaya.”

Netizen Jairus (@jairus_sg) noted that while Arañas has “good point”, however, he asked “bakit ang salty sa kanta na hindi naman nagpropromote ng hate?” The netizen also stressed that “if people enjoy the song, let them be.” He also lamented that  if “someone would (say) my music is trash” he would actually be sad.

Another netizen poyyy (@kebinalcs) responded to Arañas’ tweets noting that while the latter’s tweets make sense “pero kung trip ng ibang tao, hayaan mo sila. Pero hindi naman kelangan masamain kung ano yung craft ng tao.” He further emphasized that while he agreed that song writing and arrangement have their own “theories” but “wala naming sinabi na kapag di mo sinunod yun, mali na.”

https://twitter.com/kebinalcs/status/1362202550057902086?s=20

As expected, a few of Moira’s fans expressed their disappointments over the tweets against the work of their idol.

Netizen #PAUBAYAMV (@PaubayaMV) replied to Arañas, “Your opinion is valid but I don’t think your mind is open to know the deeper meaning of the song by Moira.”

The netizen also warned Arañas that “million of people will attack” him if they see his tweets “because they’ll strongly disagree with you.”

The rise of Hugot in contemporary Filipino films and music

For several years now, the word “Hugot” has gained infamy among certain groups of Filipino aesthetes and culturati perhaps due to its pervasive and singular influence to contemporary art productions particularly in films and music.

Echo (2015) defined “hugot” as a Filipino word which means “to pull or to draw out.” Sencil and Arias (2017) described the trend use of “Hugot” as “a non-literal definition of the word to pull out feelings from somewhere deep within; to pull sentimental memories and experiences.”

Although “Hugot” is not something new and has been the usual mode of inspiration for artists throughout the ages (Bodoso, 2019), its contemporary significance among millennials and Gen Zs can be traced from Antoinette Jadaone’s That Thing Called Tadhana, You’re My Boss and other directors of films like Camp Sawi, and Juan Miguel Severo’s performance poetry (spoken word poetry) pieces like Ang Huling Tula Na Isusulat Ko Para Sa ‘Yo. And just like in the case of music particularly of Moira dela Torre’s songs, “Hugot” films are usually on the list of the highest grossing films and most awarded films in the Philippines (Sencil and Arias, 2017).

Is “Hugot” an inherently inferior form of aesthetics?

While aesthetics is highly subjective, recent scholarly articles on “Hugot” suggest that there is something more to it than meets our critical gaze.

For Cabajar (2016), “hugot” employs imagination in the use of language in different forms, and humor in order to catch the attentions of its audiences. His research also noted that “Hugot” lines have different themes such as love, relationships in love and experiences in life in general (Bodoso, 2019). In essence, for Bodoso (2019), “Hugot” lines are considered poems since elements of poetry are evident in them.

In fact, in an article, Alfonso Manalasta (2019) cited critically acclaimed indie-folk band Ben&Ben’s song “Kathang Isip,” as another “hugot” song by contemporary definition.

“Hugot” can also be found in Wattpad writers, insta-poets, spoken word poetry, and from Lang Leav.

Now for my take on the question “Is hugot an inherently inferior form of aesthetics?” My answer is definitely no. However, just like in any forms of art, “hugot” and “hugot” artists must be open to all kinds of valid criticisms that will be thrown at them. And those valid criticisms include what Arañas and other netizens have posted.

“Hugot” also presents a unique case in terms of its potential to be subversive and at the same time its tendency to be co-opted by the neoliberal-capitalist apparatuses that take advantage of artists and artistic productions.

“Hugot” is transgressive in the sense that it is born out of subaltern spaces of the internet away from the established or “more” academic establishments like in the case of “Wattpad” writers and “insta-poets.” But at the same time, their huge popularity, which is sometimes detrimental to more traditional forms of artistic production or the Fine Arts, makes them a prey of commercial outfits’ exploitation as an easy source of “cheap” artistic labor.   

Although, despite “Hugot’s” banality and ubiquity in our contemporary aesthetic experiences, I am still a believer of its capacity to become transformative especially at that point when “Hugot” artists have gained sufficient clout to stand their grounds against the purely monetary interest of their commercial studios.

Of course, self-reflexivity coupled with strong organizing allows artists, commercial studios and the audience to be in constant dialogue with one another in order to address various challenges especially in our present pandemic-ravaged context.

To end, perhaps by pinpointing the fact that all artists have been struggling in this pandemic, it will not be hard for us to be compassionate and receptive over the success of another artists.

In fact, the success of Moira Dela Torre’s “Paubaya” is a testament that Filipinos in this time of pandemic need art more than ever– with or without “hugot.”   

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